maio 05, 2007

Biofuels - the next big threat to Africa

By Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This year has seen the beginning of what promises to be the next new large-scale threat to Africa's food, land, environment and farmers - Biofuels.

The reality of Climate Change has now been accepted by world governments and industry, and with it, acceptance that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels is responsible for heating the planet's atmosphere and changing weather patterns.

Everyone agrees that CO2 emissions must be reduced, but one of the solutions proposed is likely to create more social and environmental problems, and probably more CO2, than they claim to solve. As Europe in particular looks to alternatives to fossil fuels such as oil and coal, Biofuels from crops such as maize, sugar, soya and palm oil, are being promoted as the new "green" solution.

However, Europe does not have enough land to grow its fuel needs. For example, even if the UK were to turn over all of its land to growing biofuels instead of food, it would need 4 times the amount of land to make enough fuel to meet its current needs. Europe is therefore looking to Africa to provide the land that will grow the fuel.

Already, we hear of large-scale biofuels projects mushrooming across Africa, with the supports of governments keen to believe that this is the economic boom of Africa's future. Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Benin and other countries are at the forefront of the new Biofuels Boom.

However, the negative stories follow these projects just as quickly. Protests, riots and arrests broke out in Uganda last month over the government's plans to degazette Mabira Forest, the largest rainforest area in the country. The forest was to be handed over and cut down for sugar plantations - some of which would go to producing biofuel ethanol. Other news shows that land grabs, deforestation and increasing food prices come about as a result of growing fuel instead of food.

Using land to grow fuel instead of food, rising grain prices, and the displacement of rural communities will lead to greater food insecurity in Africa. Any environmental benefits from using biofuels instead of fossil fuels will be cancelled out as forests, peatlands, mangroves and protected areas are cut down, burned, and converted to farmland. And the GM industry intends to use this as an opportunity to promote GM biofuels, to gain a foothold into Africa where there has been hard-fought resistance to GM contamination of food.

While campaigns in Europe against increased biofuel targets are just starting up (see, African farmers, communities, civil society and governments also urgently need to wake up and raise awareness about the threats. We need to act before the land is given away, the forests are cut down, and the food priced out of the reach ofthe poor.

Best wishes,

1. Rural Communities Express Dismay: "Land Grabs Fuelled by Biofuel Strategy."
Statement from South African Civil Society. Date: March 2007
[see also: ]
2. Biofuels Boom Spurring Deforestation
Article from Inter Press Service. Date: 22 March 2007
Stephen Leahy
3. Biofuel Demand Makes Food Expensive
Article from BBC. Date: 23 March 2007
Nils Blythe
4. The Next Genetic Revolution?
Article from The Ecologist. Date: 29 March 2007
Robin Maynard and Pat Thomas
5. If We Want to Save the Planet, We Need a Five-Year Freeze on
Article from the Guardian. Date: 27 March 2007
George Monbiot,,2043724,00.html
6. Biofuel Crop Rejected
Article from Cape Times. Date: 28 March 2007
Melanie Gosling

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